At his demo of the IA BookReader at the recent Books in Browsers conference, Mike Ang said about the new BookReader thumbnail view — “We think this is one example where the digital book has some advantages over the printed one.” Mike was talking particularly about the ability of  the thumbnail view to give a unique overview of a book’s contents. I came across an example that shows the usefulness of this, described below.

On the top frame of the graphic at left is a shot from the personal copy of a book by Isaac Newton that has his own personal annotations in the margins, that’s described in IA staffer George Oates’s blog article — This sounded interesting when I read it, but the article didn’t have a link or page number where the annotation in the example appeared in the book. So I searched for the book in IA, and I was able to visually scan through it quickly to find the annotation, using the thumbnail view, as shown in the bottom frame at left.

This simple little example fits in nicely with the idea I’ve discussed in several articles on this blog, that thumbnails are invaluable especially in books that contain non-textual material — In the examples I’ve blogged about previously, this has been illustrations, but marginalia also fits nicely into this category.

A few more details on the Newton example — The close-up of the text (top frame) is from a set of Oates’ slides (#24) about the project; it’s also in her article linked above. As mentioned, although these sources have nice detail about the unusual Newton treasure, neither has a specific link to the occurrence or page number of the annotation shown. The IA record for the book has a note saying “Includes Issac Newton’s handwritten notations,” but doesn’t say exactly where they occur. It turns out that the annotation is on page 73.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

The Internet Archive’s BookReader got a lot attention at the Books in Browsers conference at IA headquarters in San Francisco last week. IA engineer Mike Ang gave a  technical talk to conference attendees on using BookReader with a touch interface (iPad, Android). He also did a demo as part of Brewster Kahle’s “Books in Browsers” Keynote which was open to the general public, and that’s mostly what I’ll discuss in this article.

The IA blog article on Kahle’s Keynote has a video that includes Ang’s BookReader demo, with some screenshots from it. But the transcribed text in the article doesn’t include the demo, so I’ll give a little summary here — Ang’s 11-minute demo (16:26-27:40 on the video) includes enhanced search capabilities, audio generation from text, use on an iPad, and the thumbnail view (shown in the picture at left), which I discussed in an earlier article.

Ang said in the demo, and also in the conference session, that his team has the new version of BookReader working well in all browsers except Internet Explorer, and that that’s the main hold-up in releasing the new version. He’s hoping it will be out in the next few weeks.

In the conference session, Ang said that it’s especially difficult to get BookReader to work on iOS and Android smartphones and tablets because “multitouch events” are programmed differently on each different device. I particularly took note of this because I’ve used the current version of BookReader on an iPad, and although it works quite nicely in general, I do notice that it’s fairly slow in pinch zooming. This is also noticeable in Ang’s demo on the video. I hope this problem can be solved — I think BookReader, if it can be made to work smoothly, has great potential on iPad-like tablets — A combination that no doubt seems natural to the people at Internet Archive since, as Ang observed in his demo, the iPad happens to be “the size of a small book.”

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

Internet Archive (IA) has long had an excellent “thumbnail view” of book pages, in the DjVu format, which I described two years ago as being arguably superior to Google Books for viewing books with a lot of illustrations. In April of this year, IA announced an additional thumbnail view, as part of their BookReader format, which I think is even better than the DjVu format. As with the DjVu format, however, getting to the BookReader thumbnail view is a bit tricky for the user. The steps are shown in the graphic below, starting at left on the IA book home/details page. The first step is to click “Read Online” at the top of the list of formats (some books in IA don’t currently have a BookReader version, in which case the “Read Online” link doesn’t appear). The next step, in the middle shot, is to click the rather inconspicuous grid-shaped icon in the top menu bar to view thumbnails.

It would be to the benefit of the Internet Archive project to make their excellent thumbnail views — DjVu and now BookReader thumbnails — easier to find. As I reported recently, Google IS finding IA versions of books, along with its own Google Books versions. And significantly, Google is often choosing to link to the DjVu format, out of the many different formats available in IA. I suspect this is because Google “has a nose for” anything that smells like it’s related to pictures (which I’ve experienced with Hardin MD picture searching for many years).

So, in closing, I’d suggest that the people at Internet Archive do some creative Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which the IA’s Peter Brantley suggested eloquently for libraries a couple of years ago — A bit of tweaking of IA pages might help Google to “find the (graphic) jewels” that they contain — The thumbnail views and formats that the world is looking for!

Finally, I can’t resist adding a BookReader thumbnail example from an elegant 19th century series of botanical prints — Click the screenshot to feast your eyes on more:

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey